Juan Miguel Severo tackles love and purgatory in the film ‘Hintayan ng Langit’

Listen, we love love. Even if we hate to admit it, most of us are suckers for romance. That is why romance is deeply embedded in art and storytelling, and why romcoms are huge. There have been countless films that explore love, but very few that attach it to afterlife of love — quite literally.

Directed by Dan Villegas, Hintayan ng Langit tells the story of ex-lovers Lisang (Gina Pareño) and Manolo (Eddie Garcia), who meet in the middle — the middle being some sort of purgatory, where the deceased are evaluated before they go to heaven. Originally a stage play, it was adapted for the screen by writer and spoken word artist Juan Miguel Severo, his first-ever movie project.

The film was shown last October at the recent QCinema Film Festival and is making a comeback on the big screen. Young STAR sat down with Juan Miguel during a screening of Hintayan ng Langit to talk about the inspiration behind the script, his own translation of love, and what the film brings to the local film industry.

Write here: Screenwriter Juan Miguel Severo was inspired by his grandmother’s old flame in writing the film’s script.

YOUNG STAR: What prompted you to write the script?

JUAN MIGUEL SEVERO: Meron tatlong prompt sa pelikulang ‘to. Una, si Nida Blanca at si Nestor Devilla — kinalakhan ko sila na matanda na love team na nakikita ko lagi nagsasayaw, and I thought, “Gusto ko magsulat for them.” They’re obviously dead, so paano ako makakapagsulat pa for them? Next ay — nakakatawa ‘to. Slow Dancing in a Burning Room ni John Mayer, at Smoke Gets in Your Eyes ng The Platters. And the third, kumbaga eto na ‘yung biglang bumagsak at nabuo siya sa utak ko… When my grandmother died noong 2011, meron isang matandang lalaki na walang kasama sa burol niya, na ang lungkot lungkot sa isang sulok. Nobody knew the guy, and pinagtanong tanong ng nanay ko sa mga tiyahin niya, tapos wala talagang nakakakilala, until finally isa sa mga kapatid ng lola ko na-recognize ‘yung matanda na apparently dati nilang kapitbahay na nanligaw sa lola ko… na gusto ng lola ko pero tutol yung tatay niya. A few years later pinuntahan namin nung namatay yung lalake, and ayun nasulat ko yung play noong Dec. 2014.

 

How was it translating the script from the play to the big screen?

Ang paraan na pagku-kwento na pinaka na-
practice ko is screenwriting. Tapos, noong sinusulat ko yung play, hirap na hirap ako kasi sa play, lahat ng detalye kailangan ipalaman sa dialogue. Ang laking adjustment, so ngayon, nung inadapt ko na siya for screen, naisip ko — this should be easy, kasi bago ko mag play, nagsulat muna ako ng screenplay. Pero ang nangyari, attached na ako masyado sa dialogue na nasulat ko, so hirap na hirap ako tanggalin siya. Sabi nga nila, “Kill your darlings,” so yes, I killed them. (Laughs)

 

So the script explores morality and love. In our current times where we tend to measure the success of love based on the longevity of a relationship, what does the film say about love itself?

Definitely, I know that a lot of people are trying to box love as this, or true love as this. If the film is able to question love, or true love — nag succeed ako as a writer ng pelikula. I think love is more complex than that. It questions ‘yung capacity natin na magmahalkesyo dami ng mamahalin at tagal kang magmamahal.

 

What is the question that you want the audience to take home from the film?

I will quote this, ‘cause this is the line that didn’t make it to the final cut: “Kung totoong sa langit, wala ng sakit, wala ng puwang at wala ng paghahanap, ano pa ang silbi ng pag-ibig doon?”

 

Hintayan ng Langit is on a very limited run. Catch it at Cinema Centenario until Dec. 14.

Tags:
#movies #theater

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